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Is Burnout Talk Causing More Burnout?

Almost every day for the last few years, someone is writing about physician burnout or depression. The problems begin in medical school. A recent paper featured drawings that medical students had done depicting faculty as monsters. One student felt so intimidated during a teaching session that she drew a picture of her urinating herself. The paper equated faculty and residents supervising students to “zombies, vampires, ghosts, and other supernatural figures.” In dealing with the state of the world today, the authors cited a comment by the novelist Stephen King saying that to cope with adversity, people make up horror stories. That sounds pretty serious. Could the problem be declining student resilience? An article about college students in Psychology Today pointed out that they are less able to deal with seemingly minor affronts. And teachers are reluctant to “give low grades for poor performance, because of the subsequent emotional crises they would have to deal with in their offices.” “If emotional contagion has such an impact on Facebook users, maybe all these stories about burnout and depression have an impact on students and doctors too.”   This has forced faculty “do more handholding, lower their academic standards, and not challenge students too much.” The article pointed out that college students exhibit more anxiety and depression and take more prescription drugs for these problems than ever before. It’s not just students. A systematic review of 54 studies found that 29% of resident physicians were depressed or had depressive symptoms. The number ranged from 20.9% to 43.2%, depending on the method studies used to assess depression. Investigators from the Mayo Clinic and...
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